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Protest, Peace and Picnicking

Midwife defenders rail at the "culture of scheduled birth."

Officials with the practice insist the move is mostly a business decision because only an estimated 10 percent of expectant moms use midwives. "It's more an issue of how philosophical care is delivered," the practice's chief operating officer, Richard Salter, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Those protesting say that's baloney or, at the very least, shrinking the picture. After all, they point out, children on the scene and the protruding bellies of "preggies" are as much a sign of proof as they are of progeny.

"We're here to show them they're wrong," protester Kate Semp says. Women seek midwives for any number of reasons, she says, but mostly because they want to give birth with as little intervention and technology as possible. "There's an emotional piece to that," Semp says.

"I can't imagine being dropped," says Jodi Kuhn, whose 6-week-old son, Zachary, was delivered by a midwife at VCU Medical Center. For now, VCU and Memorial Regional Medical Center are the only two area hospitals that permit physician-sponsored midwives to deliver babies on site.

But that could change. The General Assembly passed legislation that takes effect July 1 allowing "non-nurse" or certified professional midwives to be licensed. And despite debate between physicians and midwives over conflicting philosophies and liability matters, midwifery appears to be on fertile ground.

"Today is just the beginning of this battle," says Sara Krivanec, president of Virginia Friends of Midwives. A national trend is at hand, she says, of women "getting out from under a doctor's supervision" and the "culture of scheduled birth."

Except for the posters and characteristic dissent, the protest resembles a picnic.

Infants and toddlers frolic about, nibbling on Teddy Grahams and grapes and sipping from juice boxes.

Kate Dorazio says she was "nesting" when she found out Tuesday that her midwife wouldn't be able to "catch" her baby. Dorazio is nine months pregnant, due any day.

"Psychologically it affected me," she says. After making eleventh-hour arrangements, a physician will deliver her child at VCU Medical Center. Her midwife will serve as her doula, kind of a head coach. "I feel situated," she says, holding a sign supporting midwives. When asked if she knows what she's having, she beams, proclaiming: "We're having a boy!" S

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